Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Playwright Interview #1 – Jeremy Benjamin October 23, 2010

NAME: Jeremy Benjamin

PROJECT: Yarp?!


TEN ONE-WORD ANSWERS

1. A Writer I Admire Is . . . Margaret Mitchell

2. My Writing Style Can Be Described As . . . David Ives Meets Ray Bradbury

3. The Portland Theatre Company I’d Most Love To See This Show Produced By Is . . . Fuse Theatre Ensemble or Working Theatre Collective

4. The Celebrity I Would Most Like To See Star In This Play On Broadway Is . . . A young and slim Joe Pesci as Chad

5. A Portland Theatre Artist I Admire Is . . . Gilberto Martin del Campo

6. I Am Terrified Of . . . Traffic jams

7. I Am Obsessed With . . . The kale grapefruit salad at Whole Foods

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . . Dracula (Bram Stoker)

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Play Are . . . Rude, Bohemian, Portland-Based

10. In the Indie Art-House Biographical Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By . . . a mutant hybrid of Ben Savage, Jack Nicholson and a rabid squirrel


FIVE QUESTIONS OF DEPTH AND SUBSTANCE

1. Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival play.

Yarp?!” is the true story of two friends, Chad — a modern-day ninja with a foul mouth — and Jeremy — a writer, philosopher and father in the throes of a divorce and a life-threatening illness — who cooperatively ran a food cart on Hawthorne that catered to a late-night crowd, dedicated to serving restaurant quality food for dirt cheap, and thereby building community.  If you drive by Hawthorne and 12th today, you will see a metal merry-go-round standing next to a sign advertising “Fried Pies!”  Where that merry-go-round is now, “Yarp?!” tells the story of what took place on that square of concrete in the not-too-distant past.

Yarp?! is presented by PDX Playwrights and will play Sunday January 30 at 12:30pm on the mezzanine of the Portland Armory (128 NW 11th Ave).  Tickets are $5.

2. How did this story come about?  What inspired it?

I was a regular customer of the beloved food cart before they went out of business. One night while dining at another cart with some theater friends, gazing on at the empty region of concrete in Yarp?!’s wake and reminiscing, I realized that my friends had never experienced Yarp?! In attempting to describe the Yarp?! dynamic, it hit me that the conversation was insufficient to do so, and that the memory of Yarp?! requires nothing short of a theatric production. So I wrote it.

3. Talk about your writing process.  (How do you write?  When do you write?  What gets you writing?)

I write whenever I need to, for however long I need to. Sometimes I’ll seclude myself in a room and write for several hours. Sometimes, if I’m at work and an idea or a phrase strikes me, I’ll sprint to the nearest bathroom stall, jot it down on a scrap of paper and stuff it in my pocket for later. Sometimes I’ll halt my bicycle, pull a notebook out of my backpack and write on the sidewalk. It’s not controllable. When a thought requires capturing, a pen is on duty.

4. What is the most exciting/inspiring piece of theatre you’ve seen in Portland?

The Clean House at Artists Rep.

5. What are you up to these days when you’re not writing?

Teaching aerobics classes, working as a personal trainer, and acting in films, plays and web series.  And during the month of October, my first priority is putting on diabolical makeup, perching in a dark corner and startling your bowels into involuntary mobilization as you make your way through a haunted house attraction.

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